Thanks to my kind donors, I have raised £630 in sponsorship for Schoolreaders, which has been matched by my company.
The charity have also been promised matched funding, so hopefully my grand total will be £2,520.
If you are able to add a little, it would be hugely appreciated. You £5 would be magnified into £20. The link to my Justgiving page can be found here.
The last weeks of SchoolReaders’ Race for Reading have been tough for me. Back from holiday and the fresh winds of west Wales, I came into contact with numerous people testing Covid + and went down with fatigue, possibly fending off the virus. I was persuaded to take things slowly and do a little at a time but I have walked a total of 92 miles, collecting sea plastic and litter.
It’s an honour to be an author supporter of Schoolreaders who have organised this fantastic marathon. So many have taken part in it that the total number of miles covered nearly 24,000 miles.
Here is my progress since my last post:
Day 27 – May 14th 2022 – 1.8km – I collect Easter bunnies encased in plastic lying discarded along the Solent Way.
Day 28 – May 15th – 2.22km – I extract a cheerful orange case from the mudflats. It once held sunglasses.
Day 30 – May 16th – 1 km – cleaning up after a tramp who had been sniffing air freshner in the bluebell woods.
Day 31 – May 20th – I km – finding MacDonald’s packing on Tanner’s Lane Beach.
Day 32 – May 24th – 2.2km – finding builder’s gloves chucked into the ditch running alongside the river
Day 33 – May 26th – 1 km – no litter! as I take the footpath up the hill to the pub
Day 34 – May 27th – 0.8km – but spend ages excavating elderly bottles from newly dug drain that flows into the river
Day 35 – May 28th – 3km – along the coast with a friend collecting broken glass and plastic, a clothes peg and a slip-on shoe.
Day 36 – June 7th – 2km – along a lane by the river collecting driver’s litter.
Day 37 – June 12th – 1km – along country lanes and into a village.
A lovely email from SchoolReaders arrived saying: “You really have been a Race for Reading superstar.”
Day 38 – June 15th – 1.6km – along the Solent Way collecting a bucketful of fast food containers and empty packets of cigarettes.
Day 39 – June 16th – 2.2km walking along the Solent foreshore collecting old PVC rope and muddy plastic bags. I find a pot shard in a dyke that could be rubbish from long ago.
Day 40 – June 18th – 3.km found a huge PVC rope whilst walking along the Solent and lugged it home with a bucket of flostam.
THANK YOU to the sponsors of Race for Reading; Maths Circle and Kindred who sponsored the campaign.
Schoolreaders now have the final total for this year’s Race for Reading! Collectively, we travelled 27,941.17 miles and raised more than £17,000!
Thank you so much to everyone who helped to achieve this! Your support means that Schoolreaders volunteers will be able to listen to many more children read, and make the world of difference to their lives!
As you can see, I use an old feed bucket to collect litter but these bags made out of old sails can take broken glass and cope well in the wind. I was kindly given one by Litter Pickers of the New Forest to keep me going.
We all need to keep collecting litter and sea plastic. You can hear news for the oceans here:
U is for Unbelievable how much litter there is in Britain
Unless each one of us do something useful, we’ll be burrowing through unbearable rubbish. I embark on an uplifting walk of about 12.5kms, up and down the river, collecting useless plastic before it is washed into the unforgiving sea.
I walk vigilantly along the tideline, through the sand dunes, along the verdant estuary where flotsam gathers, and into town finding very small pieces as I cover 6.5kms.
Day 23 –
W is for Why Worry?
Why use a dog poo bag if you are going to leave it in the countryside? It is worrying. They do not decompose and have been known to kill animals attracted to grain in the dog poo. Foals have died. A vet found 20 dog poo bags in the stomach of a deer.
I wander through tide wrack finding a number of dog poo bags washed up by the sea. How many kill dolphins? I return via the windswept sand dunes crossing an ancient midden or rubbish dump. 4 km + 9km = 13km walked today.
W is for Waterhaul – I use this old feed bucket for collecting litter but it is better to take a bag when it’s windy. You need a strong one that can take broken glass. Waterhaul are making beach clean bags out of old sails and are up-cyling amazing things out of discarded fishing net. You can find their website here.
X is for sea Xs – I find a huge number along the coast – the result of torn fishing net being shredded and discarded at sea. It is too costly to mend or dispose of them on land. Theses strands of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) are known as sea-kisses when an X is formed by the knot. Please collect any and report your findings to Marine Management.
I stop for a rest to look back on what’s been achieved, appreciating all the encouragement I’ve been given.
Rebecca Holmes left a message saying: “only 3.5km” only this only that. NO, it’s not only. It’s brilliant, every single step counts.
Liz Downs Wow. This is the first I’ve heard of this. What an achievement
Stephen Green Such a worthwhile cause, I commend you Sophie well done, I don’t know where you get the energy from.
Y is for Yucky
Are young people to blame or drivers? If you take a lane running alongside your local river, you soon notice that most roadside litter is made up of the bright packaging of things that are bad for people: tobacco, sweets, over flavoured snacks, drugs, sugary carbonated drinks and alcohol. Somehow the caffeine fails to give people the energy to take their rubbish to a bin.
I took part in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean when we counted cans collected and found twice as many alcohol containers as soft drinks. The highways of Britain are lined with tins and bottles that have been in people’s mouths. What are the consequences?
I walk 1.3km along our tidal river within the National Park, collecting a couple of large bottles that would have been hazardous if flung from a vehicle. These are added to my glass recycling bin, which has become embarrassingly full. I have a container of old oil I do not know how to dispose of. There are two 25 litre drums of chemicals, a car bumper and a metal table lurking in the estuary. I’ve reported them to the Council twice but nothing has been done.
I feel discouraged but am delighted to announce that a colleague from Litter Pickers of The New Forest, renown for covering a huge distance, has signed up for the Race for Reading 2022 and will be picking up the baton. Another volunteer promises to help me extract the fly-tipping and take it to the dump.
Z is for Zonked. I’m getting tired but zoom along the shore zealously collecting muddy rubbish and tiny pieces of litter covering 4.1km.
Z is for Zero plastic waste. I sign up for The Big Plastic Count. We have to stop producing so much single use plastic. I’m told that a truckload of rubbish enters the sea every second of everyday. I will continue to pick pieces up from the coast but we have to stop it getting into the sea.
I log my fitness to find I have covered over 78 miles on the Race for Reading 2022. I’ve only collected one wheely bin of litter, a tub of glass bottles and another of tin cans but the coast is clear.
Thanks to my generous sponsors, I’ve raised £445 for School Readers so far. My company will double any money I can raise in sponsorship, so any donations given to School Readers via my Justgiving page will be doubled.
Schoolreaders is a children’s literacy charity which provides volunteers to partner primary schools nationwide to listen to children read. Even before Covid 19, 1 in 4 children left primary school unable to read properly1. Currently, our dedicated volunteers support over 7,000 children every week with one-to-one reading support, boosting their reading ability, fluency, comprehension and enjoyment.
Why Schoolreaders is needed:
Inequalities in literacy levels have widened since the pandemic. 5-7 year old disadvantaged pupils are 7 months behind non-disadvantaged peers2
One in seven adults (7 million people) have poor literacy and are unable to fill in a job application form, read a medicine label or understand written instructions. This can affect their mental health, contribute to unemployment, homelessness and crime – 48% of UK prisoners have reading ages of 11 or under.3
Illiteracy costs the UK economy nearly £40 billion every year.4
More than 10% of primary schools in England have registered with Schoolreaders to help their pupils catch up on vital reading skills.
As you can see on my earlier posts, I’ve been using the alphabet as a theme.
N is for Nothing changes unless we take action
Day 14 – Another nice walk along the estuary into the small town of Newport collecting numerous wrappers and a noxious nappy dropped by numbskulls.
I walk another 3km later, cleaning the high tide line along the beach finding, amongst the rope and fishing line, a spoon, a sock and five poo bags. Why dog owners use tennis balls is a mystery. They contain lead and can choke large dogs.
O is for Obviously old things get outdated or ousted and litter becomes an ordinary occurrence rather than an outrage.
Day 15 – I only cover 2 kms following the coastal path to a lifeboat station but collect three old socks, a pair of knickers and half a bucket of litter. I later search the tide line for flotsam and mainly find dog poo bags and obsolete fishing line while covering another 3.5kms.
P is for Plastic –
Day 16 – I plod past a harbour collecting picnic litter, pondering on the fact I’ve probably covered 2 kms. Later I pace the tide line for 3.7kms returning with a heavy bucketful of party rubbish: plastic packaging, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plastic cups, plastic straws and 6-pack plastic that litters the coast. I find plenty of plastic cotton bud stalks, panty liners and packets of condoms along the shore – an indication of sewage entering the sea. PVC rope and polystyrene discarded by the fishing industry is common.
Patience is needed. PPE, party poppers, plasters and ear plugs fill me with fury. I prefer picking up paddles, pegs, paintbrushes, pens and pencils since there’s a possibility they were simply lost. There’s a litter-picking prize for finding pairs of pants.
Day 17 –
Q is for quayside
but as that is now clean, I walk up the estuary into a quaint market town. It’s quiet but I find a lot of wrappers, covering 3.9kms as I collect a bucketful of litter. The skate park posed quite a challenge. The drains there wash straight into the estuary.
After lunch, I set out across the sand dunes finding a quantity of drink cans and glass bottles left by camp fires. The 20 bottles are heavy to lug back.
I’ve learnt a lot since collecting litter. You see what’s happening from the underside of society. Alcohol containers are often discarded from high vehicles , rural drug taking is rife and fishing vessels are shredding nets at sea. The arterial roads of Britain are strewn with rat-infested litter loaded with human DNA. It’s surprising we are not threatened by a more serious pandemic.
Day 18 –
R is for re-cycling on the Race for Reading
I have been putting bottles or clean drink cans in the recycling bins but most coastal plastic needs to go to landfill. I scan the mudflats for ancient litter including heinous broken glass covering about 2.5km.
Day 19 –
S is for Sunshine
Silvery skies lift my spirit as I searchthe seashore for seven kilometers without seeing much flotsam. We seem to be making progress. If people see no rubbish they are less likely to drop litter.
Day 20 –
T is for tidying
I retrace my tracks traversing three kilometers to town coming across little litter. Two more kilometers with the dog and I’m tired but happy. Another two kilometers in the evening take us to a running total of 55 miles covered litter-picking so far. Logging my progress with the Race for Reading has been motivational.
I’m walking along the coast on a sponsored beach-clean, using the alphabet as my theme.
The aim is to raise funds for the charity Schoolreaders who aim to ensure every child in the UK can read fluently by the age of eleven. Shockingly, 25% fall behind. It jeopardizes their future.
Day 7 – H is Hard work – Ihead out along hedgerows just above the high tide’s reach to harvest horrific litter that could wash into the sea. I cover 2.1km and only collect 35 pieces but haul three discarded containers of chemicals that were chucked into the river.
Day 8 – I is for I have to do something. Imagine our coastlines covered in rubbish. It’s impossible to ignore wanton trash. I’ve found three intact fluorescent light bulbs washed up before now.
We go down to the foreshore to see what recent storms have brought in. When I first moved to the Solent eighteen years ago it was multi-coloured with bottle tops. Volunteers have slowly cleared it but the sea coughs up unwanted plastic on every tide. As we collect flotsam, a £20 note floats up to us!
Day 9 – J is for Just pick it up –
I cross a causeway over a tidal river where drivers obviously chuck rubbish while waiting for the level-crossing to open on the far side. Having a litter-picker makes the job easier and safer. I collect a bagful and continue into town, putting litter straight into council bins. Despite plenty of these, I find a significant amount of cellophane on the quay about to be blown into the harbour. I cover 3.5km collecting litter over 90 minutes.
Day 10 – K is for keep fit – and keep going. We arrive in Pembrokeshire for a family holiday. I’m tired after the journey but walk about two miles in 90 minutes, collecting a carrier bag full of coastal litter.
Day 11 – L is for Litter – loitering in the tide wrack of Wales, but I’m joined by friends from The Dog House which is fun. We walk 5 kms along a sandy beach where the smallest dog is rather good at finding litter.
Day 12 – M is for mission to rid the cost of plastic pollution. I walk up an estuary for only 2kms but collect a bucketful of PVC rope and plastic wrappers. I repeat the same distance at low tide when the landscape looks quite different.
Would you like to join the challenge? It’s not too late.
Every pound raised in sponsorship makes a difference and provides more children with vital reading help. They send out T shirts to those who reach £100 in donations along with a R4R 2022 medal to everyone who has raised over £15 and a gold medal to those who have raised over £1,000.
My company will match any sponsorship I personally raise, so any money given via my Justgiving page will be doubled.
Thanks to my very kind supporters I’ve raised £355 so far, which will be doubled to make £710! This will be enough to ensure twenty volunteers are able to listen to children read and give them a love of books, improving their life chances.
And, I’ve stopped litter from threatening wildlife and polluting our seas. For a full list of things I’ve found washed up on the Solent over the years, please click here
Thanks go to Schoolreaders who change the life stories of so many children.
Over the next 80 days, supporters around the world will run, cycle, swim, row and walk to raise funds for the national charity Schoolreaders. They are encouraging litter-pickers to join their virtual race.
As an ambassador for Keep Britian Tidy, I have been litter-picking as I walk along the coast, cleaning beaches and shorelines of the United Kingdom on the Great British Spring Clean from 25th March to 10th April. I’m happy to extend this until 19th June 2022 when Schoolreaders virtual race ends.
Last year, a total of over 34,000 miles was covered by the registered participants. I kept a tally of miles walked while litter picking, clocking up 32 miles. My distance covered was not very impressive – but collecting flotsam takes time and my bucket can get heavy.
Somewhere I have a tally of the amount of rubbish collected. I certainly took a lot of photos. I’m hoping friends will join me this year as I’m aiming to walk a lot further.
I’m not sure if I will find anything that relates to books or reading but it is possible.
If you would like to support children’s reading in the UK there are many ways you can do so:
You can sign up to become a Schoolreaders volunteer– they ask for a commitment of one academic year to provide the children with consistency.
You can set up a regular donation for as little as £5 by clicking here
Funds raised will provide weekly one-to-one reading support sessions from Schoolreaders volunteers across the country. We are hoping to be able to help over 2,500 children who may have fallen behind with their reading during Lockdown.
As a child, I longed to find a unicorn. Nowadays they litter the New Forest.
Unicorns seem to be popping up everywhere, along with Disney princesses.
And underpants. We find a lot.
Shockingly, I have been told, ‘we get ORDERED to throw them overboard as sending them back ashore is expensive due to them been classified as hazardous waste. Happens everyday in some way or another. 200 old fire extinguishers once but there’s a lot worse.’
These look like regurgitated owl pellets comprised of plastic, found in woodland on the Solent Way footpath. I often find PVC rope in the dung of New Forest ponies.
Here is a tree bearing three, although you can only just see the remains of a blue rope. It’s killed the branch.
‘Why do people litter?’
Annie Soulsby says, “It’s about caring. If someone doesn’t care about themselves they tend to not care much about anything else, including the environment. “
“The crux of the problem is that all sorts of people litter all sorts of items for all sorts of reasons” says Samantha Harding, the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s litter campaign. “Men aged 18-25 often see it as cool to drop litter, but hauliers, smokers, users of fast food outlets and drive-through takeaways and commuters are all groups of society who litter”.
The animals seem to resent rubbish left in their pristine environment. The rabbits excavated these cans.
May be its because people use holes as litter bins.
Litter pickers often encounter wildlife – especially lizards or wood mice, snails and insects, which use the litter or become trapped inside it. I found this healthy slow worm under a water trough when I was cleaning a field.
Our most exciting and treasured find was a brand new basket ball with plenty of bounce, washed up on a remote Solent shore.
Litter is pollution. It’s vital that we remove it. Dave Regos has asked to show you an award-winning documentary entitled ‘A Fist Full of Rubbish’:
It took two adults and two small children more than an hour to collect this flotsam washed up along the Solent within the New Forest National Park.
The collection ended up weighing about 3 Kgs, despite cellophane and a large number of light, fly-away wrappers. The contents included hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic found in the shingle or blown inland.
Sorting the colours brought attention to objects that the Marine Conservation Society would classify under ‘sewage’, ‘fishing’ and ‘litter’, thankfully well washed in seawater.
Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks have thankfully been banned but plastic pollution remains a huge problem. We need to do what we can to turn the tide.
What most distresses me are signs that birds are confusing styrofoam with the natural remains of cephalopods that they peck at in search of calcium.
I sort out the marine rope and fishing tackle, which is stored for a future project.
All this, and broken glass, was collected from a beach where children play. There are serviced, wildlife-proof litter bins, and since it is remote, requiring a parking permit, it is never crowded.
After an hour of labour, the litter pickers are rewarded with cool drinks.
For photos of a previous Solent Beach Clean – please click here. You can see which items turn up month after month, such as green ‘sea kisses’ and tampon applicators.
You know something is wrong when you find a high quality holdall in the reedbeds – with a lap top and empty jewellery box inside.
I apologise if you find this distressing. It is distressing. Heartbreaking. I only hope the thief was eventually caught and can appreciate his wrong doing.
This iphone was found further down the river, as part of a separate haul.
Having been chucked in the reedbeds there was no DNA for the police to find.
The stolen laptops and phones were obviously password protected and of no use to the burglar. They could have been left somewhere dry for their owner to reclaim – such as a bus shelter but, no. Instead this jewelry box was chucked in a ditch, easily seen from from the tar road but soon ruined by falling rain.
Why was this open penknife chucked out of a vehicle on a bend coming out of town?
We may have had just one thief who repetitively used the local river as a dump for unwanted stolen items. I would have reported a weapon to the police but by the time I found this, I had spent too much of my life waiting on the 911 line.
This handbag had been stolen some time ago from the owner’s car parked about ten minutes’ drive away. A family of mice had made a warm dry nest in the interior. There were three pairs of spectacles inside but not the necklace that she valued.
I’m always finding abandoned pub glasses, which technically have been stolen from local pubs. I returned this and a few others but glasses can turn up in the middle of nowhere.
I’m told that unopened chocolate bars, cans of larger and half consumed bottles of vodka will probably have been stolen. They lack value to the person who abandoned them – who obviously didn’t want to be caught red-handed.
I once found a brand new – and boxed – microwave oven tucked into the bushes at this location, a quiet spot where you can park:
I once found a single, leather, horse riding chap on a bridge, deciding that it must have fallen off a trailer. It turned out to be part of a haul of riding equipment worth thousands that had been stolen the night before. I contacted the owner but she was distraught and couldn’t use one, single legging.
Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks, along with plastic tampon applicators and shot gun cartridges, have become a sad portrait of society: what the sea sees of us. Why do we come across so many short pieces of PVC rope and fishing net?
I am told these ‘sea kisses’ are the result of trawlers shredding torn nets at sea and dumping this ‘waste’ overboard as it is cheaper and more convenient than bringing it ashore to be buried.
Will this ultimately poison fish and make them inedible?
All these micro-plastics have washed up on the shores of the New Forest National Park. I’ve been trying to make ‘beautiful pictures of horrible things’, as the broadcaster JJ Walsh describes my photographs and framed collages.
Any throw-away plastic rings should be regarded as ‘wildlife crime’ – they strangle too many birds.
Do you know how much lead there is in a tennis ball? Despite the fact they they are not recommended as toys for dogs, huge numbers are washed up on our beaches. I find them all the time.
One of my biggest hates are the plastic things used to sell six-pack drink cans as they easily get stuck around creatures’ necks. This four-pack plastic was washed up near a seabird breeding colony. I won’t even re-cycle one without cutting it apart.
The ear-loops on masks also need to be cut, along with PPE gloves. They are washed up on the shore every day.
And there are always gloves –
Children tend to be good at finding micro-plastics on beaches once they catch the vision. We have begun classifying them by colour or type. This black party-popper was a favourite.
I’m assured that some councils need to check beaches for ‘sharps’ before volunteer litter-pickers are allowed to begin collecting in earnest. Can you spot the needle and syringe here?
Collecting all these tiny pieces takes time and one has to watch out for hazards – but if it is not collected children will no longer be able to play on our beaches. Some parts of the coast have so much broken glass that you can’t pick it up with a dog in tow. It remains sharp for decades where there is no wave action.
The Marine Conservation Society likes to classify sea plastic into Litter, Fishing by-products, and sewage-related finds such as cotton-bud stalks and plastic tampon applicators.
After collecting flotsam, it takes a different mind-set to do the sorting, but it’s important to analyse and report back on what the tide is bringing in.
I began to collect fishing tackle in a crate that was washed up on the Solent. Let me know, in the comments below, if you ever need some of this for a talk on conservation or plastic pollution. I’m giving it away freely.
The very first things I ever found when litter picking in the New Forest National Park were these cut-glass jam pots found in a box that had been left in a rural car park. If they belong to you, and you’d like them back, please let me know.
These days, it is quite common to find discarded camping equipment in wilderness areas. Most items are brand new. I washed these green equipment bags (below) and sent them to an appropriate charity.
All litter pickers report back on finding glasses, usually abandoned near pubs. I must have rescued six or seven. Children’s toys are often left on the beach, but I leave them somewhere where the owners can pick them up or other children can enjoy them.
This silver broach lying in a stollen jewelry box was collected by the police. I also found a lost silver bracelet that I took to our local Police Station.
I have been making a collection of fishing equipment, which presumably could be re-used. Although this lure had lost its hooks, I have four or five like it. Our children were most thrilled when I found a plastic shark.
I am yet to wear them, but these sunglasses were perfectly serviceable after being put through the dish-washer. I have added them to local Lost and Found post on Facebook but have had no takers. Other lost items have been gratefully re-claimed, from a lens caps to expensive trailer parts, and temporary road signs abandoned by contractors.
I found this open penknife on the verge of a road where nobody walks, which was strange. I still wonder if it was flung out of a car window. It’s in my toolbox with a serviceable paintbrush and an expensive project torch I came across later.
While not exactly beautiful this tow-hitch guard was just what a friend of mine needed and made an amusing hostess gift. I found it walking along the pavement on my way to Book Club.
Think of joining the charity Keep Britain Tidy today. You can find more about how they can help here.
Having posted this blog on their site, members replied saying the most beautiful thing they had found litter picking was friendship – new friendships made, old friends litter picking together and fulfillment in forming groups.